Sunday, September 11, 2011

hell's heaven

"I am in heaven(zanzibar) at the moment", I wrote to a friend the morning of September 10, 2011.

The day before, Tim asked me if I could upload a photo story by the weekend in preparation for the Open Show Retrospective to be held on October 20 at Rayko Center in San Francisco. One of my photos has been selected to be exhibited.

Truth be told, my story on Joseph was (and is) incomplete. I never got that shot of him with his family -they loved the camera and I could never get a candid shot or that "last" shot I had thought of with a view of the lake.
So I looked for a photo story in my next destination, Zanzibar. On the morning of 10th, I went to the hotel reception for help just like I had the day before. But this time I found one and it was hell.

MV Spice Islander I, capsized in the Indian Ocean off Zanzibar at around 1 AM that morning. 579 people were rescued, 189 are confirmed dead and as of today, scores are still missing.

I was one of the very few photographers at Nungwi Beach, where the ferry capsized and where the victims were brought to shore.

I was also one of the very few who made it into the tents where the victims were wrapped, numbered and their belongings were placed on top of them.

I was one of the three who was given 5 minutes to take pictures in the identification tent right before the friends and family were allowed in.

sometimes, I discovered, you don't need press credentials to get close to the action, you just need a little compassion, respect and guardian angels who help and comfort you, when you need it most.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

time was

Nairobi, Kenya, Africa
It’s back to the hustle and bustle of Nairobi and clinking cutlery in the guesthouse dining room.

Its been 5 hours since I got here and while I wait for a room to check in, I am already missing the village- where the rooster started his daily chant at 4 AM, the cow occasionally chiming in and the sheep and the dog and the bats, and where Maurine’s much-loved radio stayed awake as long as she did- although I don’t miss the insane bat who ran towards the lantern (and hence me) in the evening or the one that was crawling on my bedroom floor one evening or the one that I found in the bathroom…
I have had an exhilarating and exhausting week, including a few 12 hour “working” days, where work included riding matatus, cars, motorcycles, boda-bodas, transplanting kale and tomatoes from the seed bed to the garden, teaching basic computer skills to a handful of youth group men, arguing with the chief, typing documents, waiting, waiting and more waiting for power, vehicles, people, printouts...

But all paid off on Thursday as Pamella, the treasurer, made the first deposit into St. John’s Uhundha Orphans and Vulnerable Children Center CBO bank account we opened that day- a CBO which was registered on Tuesday!!

My last day in the village, yesterday, I have yet another sumptuous feast cooked by five Lakelang youth group girls, who take charge of the kitchen the moment they enter the house-- fresh tilapia that George is sent to “hunt” for by Priscah for my ‘last supper’, as John calls it, and then a very emotional farewell by my friends and family at Uhundha. Priscah gives me a big hug adding, “You have a new home address.”

I will be back- it wasn’t the last supper there...